Greg Pavlick

This article was written by Leslie Heaphy

While he may not have had major-league success as a player himself, Greg Pavlick has certainly had a long baseball career. Pavlick has been involved in professional baseball since 1971 and helped nurture the careers of countless young players within the Mets and Yankees organizations.

Gregory Michael Pavlick was born on March 10, 1950, in Washington, D.C. Growing up he loved sports and excelled at baseball for Thomas A. Edison High School in Alexandria, Virginia. His accomplishments earned him the chance to play for the University of North Carolina Blue Devils in 1970-71, earning a varsity letter as part of the baseball team and a degree in political science. Pavlick pitched and played third base for the Blue Devils. A 6-foot-3 right-hander, Pavlick had good-enough stuff in high school to be drafted by the Houston Astros in 1968 in the seventh round of the amateur draft (135th overall; he did not sign with the Astros). Pavlick was in good company that year as some of the top picks included Thurman Munson, Bobby Valentine, and Greg Luzinski.1 In 1971 he was drafted out of North Carolina by the New York Mets in the second round (47th overall). Scout Bill Herring saw something in the young right-hander that gave Pavlick his chance at a professional baseball career.

Pavlick began his journey through the Mets farms system starting with the Marion Mets in 1971. He made steady progress through the organization, from Pompano Beach to Visalia to Memphis before finally making it to the Triple-A Tidewater Tides in 1977. But Triple-A as a 27-year-old was as high as Pavlick would go in his playing career. He pitched in four games for Tidewater, a total of nine innings, with no decisions. Pavlick’s best year came in 1973 with the Class-A Visalia Mets. He pitched in 141 innings and was 7-7 with a 3.45 ERA. Apparently Pavlick had control issues he never seemed to conquer. In 1972 with Visalia, he walked 75 batters in 117 innings. With Tidewater in 1977 he walked 10 in 9 innings.2

While Pavlick never made it to the majors as a player, his career continued from 1977 as a coach for the Mets and later the Yankees organizations. Pavlick’s high point as a coach came in 1986 as part of the World Series champion Mets. Still working as of 2015, he said he was proud of the contributions he made to that team and its pitching staff.

Pavlick started his coaching career in the same way he did his playing career, in the minor leagues and moving up the ranks. Until 1982 he worked as a roving pitching instructor in the lower minor leagues. In 1983 Pavlick was the bullpen coach for Columbia in the South Atlantic League, and then in 1984 for Double-A Jackson. Pavlick got his first major-league chance with the Mets beginning in 1985-86 as bullpen coach, replacing Frank Howard, who left to join the Milwaukee Brewers. Reflecting on this first call to the majors, Pavlick remarked, “Sure there were times when I felt I might never make it, but I enjoyed what I was doing and I was just hoping that sooner or later a spot would open up for me.”3 Commenting on Pavlick’s importance to the team, manager Davey Johnson said, “Perhaps Greg’s main duty was to assist Mel Stottlemyre with our pitchers. He really made a contribution too. I think his biggest asset was his familiarity with the staff because he had seen so many of them throw in our system.”4

In 1987 Pavlick returned to the Mets minor leagues as a roving pitching instructor. Part of his responsibility was to supervise Doc Gooden’s return to pitching form after his release from drug rehab. Johnson praised Pavlick’s work with Gooden: “Greg did a super job with Dwight. He got him ready to go for us under very difficult circumstances. Greg Pavlick deserves a great deal of the credit for the fine season Dwight had on his return.”5

Pavlick returned to the Mets again from 1988-1991, working under Buddy Harrelson as a bullpen coach and then first-base coach when Mike Cubbage moved over to be the third-base coach. From 1992 through 1993 Pavlick resumed his roving minor-league instruction before getting the call again in 1994; this time becoming the Mets pitching coach in 1994-1996 after Mel Stottlemyre left. Pavlick served under manager Davey Johnson before his final stint under Dallas Green. GM Joe McIlvaine said of selecting Pavlick to replace Stottlemyre, “There’s continuity, a good working knowledge of what we have on the major league and minor league levels.”6 Gooden was also happy with the change, having worked with Pavlick during his rehab assignment. After the 1996 campaign Green and Pavlick, along with bench coach Bobby Wine, were let go by the Mets. Pavlick was replaced by former Mets pitcher Bob Apodaca, who was brought up from Tidewater where he had previously been Bobby Valentine’s pitching coach.7

While working under Davey Johnson, Pavlick and the other coaches often played golf together in their off-time. They usually played at Piping Rock Golf Course on Long Island. The coaches all stayed at an old estate kept by the Mets for them and Pavlick served as the group’s dishwasher along with Johnson. Their cook was Vern Hoscheit and Bill Robinson did their grocery shopping.8

Pavlick left the Mets organization with 26 years of service to join the coaching staff of the Tampa Yankees in 1997. With some changes in Yankees management, Pavlick was promoted to be pitching coordinator in 1999.9 He moved up to the Columbus Clippers in 2000-2001. He was the pitching coach for the Clippers for two seasons and then worked on the staff of the Class-A Tampa Yankees from 2002 until 2015. One of Pavlick’s best seasons as a pitching coach came in 2009 when the young Tampa staff finished fourth in ERA at 3.45 and also fourth in saves with 39. His pitchers threw 10 shutouts that season and two complete games. Eleven members of that staff went on to pitch in the majors. Lance Pendleton, who pitched 18 innings in the majors, led the 2009 squad with an 11-5 record.10 Under Pavlick’s direction, the Tampa pitchers helped their team finish first in their division in both 2007 and 2010. They also won the league championship in 2009 and 2010.

At the end of the 2013 season Pavlick received consideration for the Yankees bullpen job after Mike Harkey left to become the pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Yankees had a number of internal candidates to consider but chose Gary Tuck from outside the organization to be the new bullpen coach. Tuck had been with the Yankees previously as well as the Red Sox and Marlins.11

Though he never played in the majors, Pavlick made a long and successful career for himself as a bullpen coach and pitching coach. He worked with some great pitchers, including Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack of the 1986 Mets staff, while also nurturing the careers of hopefuls like the Yankees’ Michael Pineda when he found himself on a rehab stint in Tampa in 2013.

 

This biography is included in the book "The 1986 New York Mets: There Was More Than Game Six" (SABR, 2016), edited by Leslie Heaphy and Bill Nowlin.

 

Sources

Besides the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted baseball-reference.com and Pavlick’s file at the Baseball Hall of Fame library. All statistics come from baseball-reference.com.